Google launches alternative DNS resolver

The Google Public DNS attempts to make Web browsing faster and more secure

Google has created a new system to resolve DNS (domain name system) queries that the company claims will speed up Web browsing for end-users, as well as make it more secure.

Google Public DNS, announced on Thursday, is still in an experimental phase.

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It attempts to improve on existing DNS resolver technology with faster, more efficient caching and additional security safeguards against spoofing attacks that try to dupe users into visiting malicious Web sites.

The DNS lets people type Web site URLs in their browsers and translates them into the appropriate IP (Internet Protocol) numerical addresses, acting as a sort of phone book and switchboard.

To use Google Public DNS, users will have to change network settings so that their Web site requests go to the Google service instead of to their ISP (Internet service provider). Google has set up a Web page with detailed instructions on how to do this.

"Many people don't think about DNS because it's something that lives in the back end," said Prem Ramaswami, product manager of Google Public DNS, in an interview.

"This is a conversation we want to start not just with power users but with all consumers. We want them to understand that there are these fundamental building blocks to the Internet that they should know more about," he added.

By publishing details on the Google Public DNS technology, Google wants to encourage ISPs and other providers of DNS resolvers to consider adopting what the company views as improvements, Ramaswami said. "We're trying to gently nudge the [service provider] community in the right direction," he said.

To make its DNS resolver faster, Google has built a large cache of popular domains, which it continuously refreshes, whether or not users are requesting the domains. Other DNS resolvers have to go out and fetch the information when it's requested. "As soon as you ask the question, we respond to you," he said.

Asked whether this service will add more user data to Google's archives, Ramaswami said Google Public DNS will retain end-users' IP addresses for no longer than 48 hours before deleting them. It will store for about two weeks more general data about the users' ISP and city.

Furthermore, Google will not use Google Public DNS traffic data to complement data it collects from users in its other services. "We'll never correlate this with our search logs or anything like that to add to the information we have about you specifically," he said. "We do recognize DNS gives us a wider swath of information, and we want to make sure that there aren't these privacy concerns."

"This is about making the Web faster, it's not about collecting more data," Ramaswami added.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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